What attracted you to the auto industry? My dad was in the industry for his whole career, but I didn't seek out being in the auto industry. After college, I looked at different industries. But there was something about Eaton that allowed me to get cross-functional experiences. I had job opportunities coming out of college in multiple industries, but the development program here interested me.
First automotive job: At Eaton in 1996, working in the development program in manufacturing and engineering, product engineering and marketing associated with our fuel emissions product line at our manufacturing plant in Ann Arbor.
Big break: Every time you stretch into learning something new, you are forced to step up. I got an opportunity to move to Europe in 2001 and was responsible for deployment of Eaton Business System for Eaton's European operations. I learned a lot about influencing and getting things done in different cultures. This has stayed with me as a leader ever since. I was 27. The company took a big bet on a young woman to do this on another continent. Secondly, this job took me out of my comfort zone. I went from the passenger side to the commercial vehicle side leading the heavy-duty product line. We did a reorg, and I picked up global responsibility for both heavy- and medium-duty product lines. I was in Europe through 2004.
What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? During 2012 and 2013, as industry volumes were accelerating after the recession, we were [challenged] in the midst of large product launches of new high-tech products such as multiple advanced engine technologies.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Our challenge is more about women staying in the auto industry than entering it. Work-life balance remains a challenge. There are still challenges in the technical fields with women being able to advance to levels they are capable of. They may go to other manufacturing industries such as consumer products or the tech industry. Since Eaton is a global power management company, we encourage our people to get those experiences in other parts of this company.
Tell us about your family. I'm married. My husband is Dutch; we met during my European assignment. He worked for the company but does no longer. We have two children: a son, 9, and a daughter, 7.
What is your favorite weekend activity? Being outside — swimming and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Are you able to maintain friendships? I still have close relationships with my friends, mostly from Penn. Those are probably the strongest.
What's your guilty pleasure? Gelato.
By Marti Benedetti